Stillness in Motion, Motion in Stillness

by Gary Readore on 2012/11/01

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, USA

Red Rock Canyon, NV, USA

Master Chen and to those on this web site, I have a question I would like to get your input on.  In the taichi classics there is an expression, “Stillness in Motion, Motion in Stillness”.  I’ve always had this explained to me that it relates to the mind being still while the body is in motion and vice versa.  This has always perplexed me somewhat and didn’t seem like a thorough answer.

After having done the Practical Method for almost 2 years now and listening to Master Chen’s explanations, this seems to really relate to “Not Moving”, in the sense that even though there has to be no movement there is at the same time something that is moving or can move.  For example, the kua or back doesn’t move but the arm/hand may/can move.  Or for example,  yin-yang separation, although there is something moving, there has to be something that is not moving (or still).  This sounds like “stillness in motion” and “motion in stillness”.

What do you think?  Is this another example of how and where the concept of the real taichi has been lost?  Where people have tried to interpret what they think the classics are saying and reading something into it that isn’t there?  Or perhaps, am I doing the same thing?

 

Thanks!

 

Gary Readore

 

 

 

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandy Doeur November 1, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Hi Gary. I think this is a rather interesting topic and I believe the answer to be rotation. If you think about it, in order to achieve a true rotation there has to be a center that absolutely does not move, yet the size of the circle can change. Center does not move is stillness, everything else around the periphery is motion. This also relates to yin-yang separation. Movement really has no meaning unless it has a fixed point to reference it to, which in most cases is the dantien. All in all I believe it comes back to lesson #1, “Do not move!”. From wuji there is yin-yang which is taiji.

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Calvin Chow November 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I think “stillness” is “no move” part in the structure. “Stillness in Motion, Motion in Stillness” is as you say, upper part keep still and lower part move then it will change to lower part keep still and upper part move. Yin roots in Yang and Yang roots in Yin, they root in one another. When you keep one part still and move another part, they separate naturally and hence “Yin Yang Separation”. My view is Master Chen’s teaching conforms basic Taiji principles very well.

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bruce.schaub November 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm

I think if we focus on physically working at the fundamental concepts that you are talking about in the second paragraph (that Master Chen emphasizes), the state you are referring to in the first paragraph can most certainly be achieved, and will only serve to enhance those fundamental abilities and understanding. As the body changes, the mind will change with it.

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cshum00 November 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm

“Still” refers to being balanced and motionless. On the other hand, “motion” refers to movements and usually (not always) being unbalanced.

However, it is rather interesting that even though one tries to stand-still motionless, ones ends up wobbling involuntarily. Try standing still with your most solid stance and close your eyes. Closing your eyes will shut your visual sense and other distractions; which allows you to notice a slight back-and-forth sway in your body. After this first time experience, you should be able to notice the wobbling in your body even with your eyes open.

I can’t remember the exact terms in science but humans are not made to stand still. It is a heck of a job for the body nervous system trying to constantly balance the body. And it is a subconscious ability we have; which is why we don’t notice until we do unusual activities like playing a statue. This is what is partially meant by “motion in stillness”. Another meaning, would be that an opponent that is trying to stand still thinks that is at the most balanced moment. But however, for the opponent standing still can sometimes be more unbalanced and vulnerable than moving.

On the other hand, it is even more interesting that one does not wobble when one is moving. That is of course, as long as you are stepping properly, not moving too fast, forcefully or tipping yourself over that your body needs to readjust and re-balance itself. And this start with “rooting”. Meaning stable solid steps, proper rotations, no tossing, etc. Therefore, this is what is partially meant by “stillness in motion”.

There are many ways to train for this whole notion of “stillness in motion and motion in stillness”. And it starts with eyesight. Put some effort into your vision on where the opponent should be, and you will notice that your wobbling still is reduced when standing compared to when you close your eyes. Do not glare. That is too much effort and you end up neglecting your balance. Also, there is an experiment which i don’t remember the name. It is about people closing their eyes and trying to walk as straight as possible but always end up walking in circles. This shows how important eyesight is for motion, stillness and sense of direction. Except i don’t know how it works on blind people.

Another way of training is to actually reverse the process. Close your eyes instead of opening it, and do your form very very slowly. You will learn that even the slightest movements of just raising your arms or even just breathing will actually pull muscles in your body and changes the configuration of your center of gravity. You will learn how your body is constantly changing and putting pressure to different places just to balance what has been changed. In a way, this will teach your body the feeling and muscle memory to balance your body automatically when the times arrives.

This whole “stillness in motion and motion in stillness” training does actually has a name. It is WuJi training.

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Frank November 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm

When the body is in motion, you train stillness of the mind; when the body is still, you train the motion of the mind.

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James Chan November 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

In practical method we focus on things that are verifiable and repeatable. It seems “stillness in motion and motion in stillness” can be verified and repeat in proper execution of “don’t move” when practicing yilu. That said, I would like to point out “Don’t Move” in practical method is not something can be read and understood. It must be felt and transmitted to you by your master, in this case, Master Chen.

I also like to point out that Taiji classic describes the result of Taiji. It is not instructions to learn Taiji. In my opinion, reading the classic before you have gained entrance to Taiji may have negative effect in your learning Taiji.

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Frank November 4, 2012 at 5:24 am

It must be noted that the phrase has been defined and interpreted many times by people before master Chen. Master Chen’s ‘Don’t move’ principle is not mutually exclusive with the other more ‘orthodox’ interpretation. It is therefore important not to ‘steal’ this phrase and redefine it to suit master Chen’s method. I am agruing in terms of principle, not master Chen’s method, which is superb.

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Xavier Santiago November 6, 2012 at 6:48 am

Since Chen style is historically proven to be the original source of Taijiquan, the principles come from our art. The way Master Chen teaches the principles is not “his interpretation”, it is the physically mastered teachings passed on to him by Hong Junsheng, who learned them from Chen Fake, who learned them from his father Chen Yanxi, who learned them from his own father Chen Gongyun, who learned his own father Chen Chanxing (who taught Yang Luchan his boxing mehtod).

In Practical Method, principles are not something you interpret intellectually to then apply it physically. We learn it physically to then understand it intellectually. You will find that those of us who have studied longer with Master Chen will only physically work on the rules, and not worry about interpreting anything. Understanding will come with physical practice and time (Gong Fu). Hong Junsheng, in my opinion, has the best interpretation of the Wang Zongyue Taiji Classic. However, Hong made his interpretations based on his decades of physically following Chen Fake’s teachings. Hong did not publish his interpretations until almost the end of his life as he felt his understanding became clearer the more he physically practiced. That is why I see his interpretation as the best due to its physical applicability. His interpretation of double heavy is something I recommend anybody to search in this website and read it (has nothing to do with weight distribution).

We respect your style’s way of doing it differently. There are no better styles. We are only different. You are welcome to share your points of view with us. We will listen to what you or any non-practical method practitioner has to say. However, we will continue to focus only on what can be physically proven.

-Cheers-

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Ted October 14, 2017 at 5:44 pm

I agree…I now practice a type of tai chi but previously practiced and taught a Japanese form of karate for 35 years or so. ..to me “stillness” is a term describing a state of mind vital to and part of any martial art properly taught.

Other terms such as “no mind” have been used but its all one…No martial art can actually “work” without this powerful state of mind wherein one can experience the chi in motion. this state of mind is not related to violence in any way but rather leads to greater self awareness

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Frank November 4, 2012 at 5:45 am

The phrase is also philosophical in nature. Trying to define it only in a mechanical sense (don’t move) does not do it justice.

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Xavier Santiago November 6, 2012 at 6:52 am

As in my above reply, in Practical Method we think the exact opposite. All Taiji principles are physical principles to be mastered physically and be able to apply them physically. Only then are they understood intellectually, not the other way around in Practical Method.

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Frank November 4, 2012 at 9:26 am

If this is the classics you refer to, it doesn’t exactly say ‘stillness in motion, motion in stillness’:

王宗岳 太极者,无极而生,动静之机,阴阳之母也。 动之则分,静之则合。无过不及,随曲就伸。人刚我柔谓之走,我顺人背谓之粘。动急则急应,动缓则缓随。虽变化万端,而理唯一贯。由招熟而渐悟懂劲,由懂劲而阶及神明。然非用力之久,不能豁然贯通焉。 虚领顶劲,气沉丹田。不偏不倚,忽隐忽现。左重则左虚,右重则右杳。仰之则弥高,俯之则弥深,进之则愈长,退之则愈促。一羽不能加,蝇虫不能落,人不知我,我独知人。英雄所向无敌,盖皆由此而及也。

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Calvin Chow November 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Yang’s Style Taiji 10 rules 太極拳十要(楊澄甫先生口述,陳微明先生整理)
虛靈頂勁 含胸拔背 鬆腰 分虛實 沉肩墜肘
用意不用力 上下相隨 內外相合 相連不斷 動中求靜
The last rule 動中求靜= Require Stillness in Motion

陈式太极拳实用拳法原则:
16. 自身用动作制造动力,但身体要控制在静力范围内。
22. 上动下不动,下动上不动。上下同时动时一定要在相反方向
http://chenzhonghua.cn/2012/11/%e8%a7%84%e7%9f%a9%ef%bc%9a%e9%99%88%e5%bc%8f%e5%a4%aa%e6%9e%81%e6%8b%b3%e5%ae%9e%e7%94%a8%e6%8b%b3%e6%b3%95/F
For me, they are talking about same rule.

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James Chan November 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm

In my last post I was quoting Gary’s words. Perhaps Gary can response.

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Gary Readore November 5, 2012 at 6:15 am

James, from your last post I assume you would like to know where I got the phrase from. Actually it was from a copy of the Song of the Thirteen Postures I received from one of my taichi teachers. I’m not sure where he got it from. Here is what it actually said:

“Stillness embodies motion, motion stillness. Seek stillness in motion”

I found this translation at several sites on the web:

http://www.taichiaustralia.com/ADiscussionOfBasics.htm
http://donlehmanjr.com/Tai%20Chi/Ni%20Documents/taichisong.htm

I don’t speak or read Chinese so I can’t comment if this translation is accurate or not.

Gary

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Frank November 5, 2012 at 9:19 am

The phrase ‘Seek stillness in motion’ comes from Yang Cheng Fu’s (楊澄甫) ‘Ten essence of tai chi chuan’ (太極拳十要) and was recorded by 陳微明, one of his senior discples, a scholar and senior government official, so you can trust that he was capturing Yang’s words faithfully.

Here is the exact words:
十、動中求靜 外家拳術。以跳躑為能。用盡氣力。故練習之後。無不喘
氣者。太極以靜御動。雖動猶靜。故練架子愈慢愈好。慢則呼吸深長
。氣沉丹田。自無血脈憤張之弊。學者細心體會。庶可得其意焉。

Here is my translation:
Seek stillness in montion. External martial arts are good at motion (jumping, throwing, etc.). One uses extreme power and therefore one runs out of breath after practice. Tai chi chuan uses stillness to govern motion. Even when moving, one is still. Therefore it is good to practice forms slowly. Breath will be deep and long. Chi sinks to dantien and therefore one is calm. Learners should take ponder this carefully, then one can understand the meaning of this.

The phrase ‘Seek motion in stillness’ is often used along with ‘Seek stillness in motion’. Though this can be tai chi related, and some branches of tai chi chuan do emphasize this, it has its origin probably in meditation.

It is also important to note that some very important things are lost in translation. For English speaking people, ‘stillness’ is motionless, is physical. Some may even understand that it also talks about the ‘stillness’ of the mind. But to some (tai chi, meditation) practitioners, there can be 7 levels (I think) of stillness! And physical stillness is only the first level.

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bruce.schaub November 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

I have made many mistakes in my twenty some years of trying to learn taiji, often the result of insufficient or incomplete instruction. I can only blame myself and was told many times if I wanted to learn taiji to greater depth, it would be necessary to learn to speak Chinese.

But even if I had, there is still some debate in my mind as to the level of access I would have been given. I have attempted to fill in the gaps with “the classics” of all kinds, from taiji classics, to alchemical classics, to taoist philosophical classics.

Much of this material after years of study, is written in varying degrees of coded language, translations are subject to grave error, and they are not instructions at how consistent results can be arrived at. Whatever the level we are talking about, consistency is the key, even if we have the good fortune to stumble upon what we think is desirable based on something we’ve read.

Without a procedure, a lot of time can be wasted and misdirected trying to find our way back to it. A lot!

Master Chen gives us a tried and true method. Without a method, complete instructions, and a teacher who has followed that specific method, consistency cannot be assured. Not only that but he has bridged the language and cultural barrier in a way that no other teacher of his level has, in my experience. And his willingness to teach and be open about things people usually keep secret is unprecedented as well (not to mention ability to convey to western minds ideas so intrinsically Chinese).

If we want ability, whether it be physical, mental, or a beautiful combination of the two….we are definitely given clear instructions, and though our frame of reference and instructions may shift along the way, I would be willing to bet the answers will always come out of foundations.

The idea horse loves to run wild off the path, if we can’t even keep focused on following instructions, putting the body through the necessary changes, how can anything with mind ever be attained? As we move from square to round, the mind can become round and bright. As we untangle and comb out our sinews, the mind will untangle with it, as our joints open, the mind opens. If we look at how hard Master Chen has worked, how do we measure up? If we ask him how he got there, I would imagine he would say “more Yilu”….more than we can probably imagine doing in an entire lifetime.

Not reading classics.

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Frank November 5, 2012 at 9:50 am

Yang’s words is very clear: Seek stillness in motion is about practicing the form slowly. It doesn’t talk about fixing a point and and doesn’t talk about rotation, etc. Master Chen’s instruction is also very clear: Don’t move! So please don’t mix the two together and claim that Yang Cheng Fu has ‘Don’t move’ in his mind when he dictated his words. Let’ leave the two alone!

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Calvin Chow November 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Thank you for your advice. I rather follow the Practical Method alone as there are too many interpretations of these taiji principles. Rules are simple, we just need to follow.

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Frank November 6, 2012 at 3:56 am

I perfectly agree. Master Chen’s method is rich enough to train a lifetime. The other systems (including other Chen styles) may be equally rich but if they don’t show and share, what’s the point of learning from them?

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Gary Readore November 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Bruce, well said. My path seems similar to yours as I too have been studying tai chi for over 20 years. Most of my time has been studying Yang style of the lineage of Dr. Yang Jwing Ming. I also briefly studied Chen style in the lineage of Chen Zhao Kui. I say this not to puff myself up (for that is the furthest thing in my mind) but to give a reference point for what I am going to say below.

Yes, one can waste a lot of time chasing the elusive “tai chi”. Bruce, your comments regarding Master Chen Zhonghua mirror mine. Master Chen has taken away the barrier for those of us that do not speak or read Chinese and presents his vast knowledge and information very openly and freely to anyone that wants to spend the time learning, something that you don’t see a lot these days. For this I am greatly appreciative to him for that. I feel I have finally found a true tai chi master and the “real” tai chi, for the Practical Method has opened my eyes and cleared up a lot of questions and misconceptions I had regarding tai chi.

What I have learned in doing the yang style is that although it follows the tai chi “principles” it is very different than the Practical Method. The other style of Chen tai chi I studied is also quite a bit different. One has to wonder and ask, Hong Junsheng studied directly from Chen Fake for a long time, and Chen Fake’s son, Chen Zhao Kui, also learned from his father, yet their styles are quite a bit different, why is this? Also, Hong’s style is different (for the most part) that other tai chi styles. It seems that something was lost “in translation” (literally and figuratively) somewhere “down the road”. For example, in the Practical Method we are specifically told not to “toss” but we see tossing clearly in other styles of tai chi (Chen included), why is this? They both can’t be right?

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bruce.schaub November 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thanks Gary, I’m very new to Chen taiji, but it is my understanding that although the principles are generally the same, the classic that says “a single mis-step off the path in the start, can lead to a mile wide divergence in the end” applies here. What I think, is that the original Taiji transmission is being passed through by Master Chen. It’s a martial tradition. The rules are very strict, and the reiteration of not changing things, is because those few who actually still practice it in it’s unadulterated form, have seen how small changes to the form or learning procedure can end up in wildly varying results. There is a veritable cornucopia of “Taiji” out there. Even within styles that bear the same name, there are drastic differences in how they are practiced. So if we want to learn a system, we can’t take Yang family interpretations of Taiji principles and try to make them fit, or other Chen style variants. If we want to apply classics to our learning, we need to study GM Hong’s words….

“From physical understanding
To mental understanding
Contemplate frequently
Practice regularly
Persist
Follow the rules
Seek progress
Don’t rush
Without knowing
Ability has increased”

I have heard Master Chen explicitly state “other forms don’t have the capacity to accept all the principles” that he teaches. We have to accept that not all Taiji is alike, to “seek stillness” is a really good way not to find it consistently. I think this aspect of taiji is alive and well in Master Chen, and he is showing us a procedure of how to arrive at a complete experience, step by step. As to why most styles don’t teach not to toss? Think about how hard it is not to toss! How much harder still to teach others. Nevertheless we can see the practicality of the fundamental principle. Yin, Yang,and Wuji….. Push, Pull, and center…… tension, compression, and neutral axis. Wuji, center, and neutral axis, are something not moving in relation to something else. Therefore, “Don’t move”……I think as our understanding of this develops the relationship between this and stillness of mind will “bear out”. It’s a method.

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pingwei November 5, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Off the topic a little bit, since people started to compare different styles of Tai Chi. In my home town, Wuxi which is one hour west of Shanghai by train, I met a Yang style Tai Chi teacher in his 60s. What he does is different from most of other Yang style I saw. He told me his Yang style was true traditional. (Everybody says so, anyway.) He doesn’t yield back (toss back) when he switches his weight and steps forward. It’s not quite close to what we practice “don’t move”, but there seemingly is a relation between Chen and Yang. That was almost 5 years ago. Next time when I go back, I will look closely and talk to him more about his particular Yang style.
Within Yang style, I believe there are different “sub”-styles, depending on their lineages. Same as in Chen style. Practical Method is one of them.

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bruce.schaub November 6, 2012 at 5:21 am

I have definitely seen similarity between Yang and Chen. But things like the Concave Circle that are so critical to learning PM, and producing certain alignments are non existent in other styles, and Master Chen teaches us this was originally a hallmark of the Chen style, so obviously some of the rules were relaxed. I originally started out learning Fu zhong Wen (yang style traditional form) from a student of his from shanghai who had studied with him for 35 yrs. Though that form doesn’t grossly toss, there are things about it that would break PM rules. For example I was told by Fu Zhong Wen personally that in Brush Knee the wrist of the low hand should be flexed back creating a restriction of Qi flow. He likend it to the way you would, partially pinch off the flow of a garden hose to cause water to shoot out further (very different from the PM concept of perpetual “sitting of the wrist”). I also learned Yang straight sword from my teacher, and broadsword and pushing hands from Fu Zhong Wen’s grandson James. I thought I was learning traditional style taiji.
I went to Shanghai in 1996 to compete in a tournament, during which time I met a Disciple of Ma Yeuh Liang ( Wu style standard bearer ). He showed me Wu style fast form and a very different much more dynamic push hands than I had learned previously. He said the Fast Form was the original traditional Taiji and the slow forms were created later, simplified and essentially made easier for health forms that a larger populace could participate in. He said Yang style had a Fast form too, but it had essentially been lost (not passed down). The slow forms people associate with Taiji today, were not traditional martial forms.
I began studying with him for the next 12 years, flying him from shanghai for months at a time learning the many Wu style forms, 13 push hands patterns, 5 moving step push patterns, many applications and drills, some of which I can see manifested from Chen style, but overall training is very different. When we push in Wu style it’s standing almost straight up, and there is not a lot of shifting back and forth. Basically you try to maintain your center in one place and use listening skills to keep the center. We try to work applications out of push hands patterns. Standing straight up forces you to listen rather than being able to rely on the strength of your legs. Not shifting back and forth forces you to train your center. There is a method to it, different method. Patterns are practiced much faster than you typically see people practice push hands. It’s very dynamic, but very different nonetheless. But my style is very different than Northern, Beijing Wu of Wang Pei Xing, or southern Hong Kong Wu style, where they practice square form and round form but no fast form.
But with all that I have learned, clearly, there are many things, fundamental things I have not been taught. Traditional martial artists like Master Chen know that real ability comes out of foundations. Constant practice of basic components unique to their system. Master Chen’s taiji is different. More fundamental. Watching the mini lessons that explain the incremental actions of various body parts and functions and how to train them individually…..watching the ever important relationship between them and how they function together….. watching how length, angle, proportion, spatial relationships and timing function specifically in taiji… all of these things I have had glimpses of in my training, but never such detailed and open explanation.
Essentially it comes down to instructions. “seek stillness in movement” ? how? how do you seek stillness in movement? It sounds quite lovely….. not an instruction…..

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bruce.schaub November 6, 2012 at 6:01 am

I just wanted to add, that I said all that not to “puff myself up” as Gary said, but just to point out some of the particular differences in training. I just don’t think we can apply one systems rules, principles, or training methods to another, and wanted to point out some specifics.

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pingwei November 6, 2012 at 6:43 am

Didn’t know you had such extensive training in Yang and Wu styles with famous teachers. Yet, you didn’t stop there, you kept searching, and found Practical Method. As you said, the METHOD matters. ***“seek stillness in movement” ? how? how do you seek stillness in movement? It sounds quite lovely….. not an instruction…..*** After all, we do need critical thinking in searching the truth.

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bruce.schaub November 6, 2012 at 7:32 am

You are right! Looking forward to this weekend. Thank you for having us to your home!

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cshum00 November 6, 2012 at 9:24 am

Well, it is certainly interesting comparing styles.
Chen Style LaoJia is rather very flowery. Because of the flowery movements, there are too many hand movements to the point where Shenfa is obscured for the untrained eye. Therefore, there are too many practitioners that don’t advance anywhere unless you are taught by a proper master. But on the other hand, there are a lot of ChinNa applications hidden inside the hand movements. This is also a reason why you see a lot of ChinNa demonstrations among LaoJia masters. I believe that traditionally, they don’t teach FaJin until you learn ErLu.
Starting from ChenFaKe, the creator of XinJia, there have been put more emphasis to external moments. It feels like he trying to integrate parts of ErLu into YiLu. But as a result, it has put emphasis of FaJin on movements. But when it comes to FaJin, people think of strikes. And that is where the different movements start to come to play. Every person has his own idea of how FaJin should be performed to be more effectively. Therefore, you will see that among the XinJia styles, the movements that are most different and to be performed all over the places are the ones performed with FaJin strikes.
Among XinJia practitioners we have Hong Junsheng and Feng Zhiqiang. Hong Junsheng’s form is rather very interesting. His form doesn’t emphasize much on FaJin movements. In fact, you don’t see him trying to push Jin out at all; not even in the punches during the form. But then again, you don’t see the absence of Jin; not even in the simplest hand movements. I believe that is due to the presence of Peng Jin in his form. But again, his Peng Jin is not stiff but rather natural. He got rid of most of the fancy hand movements in his YiLu by using small circles. Because of that, his Yilu looks very direct. His form tells you a personality of a person who tried to perfect the form by practicing the same thing over and over.
FengZhiqiang’s HunYuan TaiChi is also very interesting. In a way, he made most of the movements look the same but at the same time different. The reason why most movements in his YiLu looks the same is because he uses the same exact hand movement to perform positive or negative circles in his form. I think his circle movements comes from his early XingYi training on the Five Basic Elements of Pi. How his circle slants downward and comes back looks extremely similar to how a XingYi practitioner would perform Pi. His Yilu movements may seem look like very repetitive but at the same time very different because each repeated movement actually has a slightly different angle to it. And in order to change angles into a larger degree, you also see him changing his footsteps a lot. That is why you see a lot of back and forth stepping in his HunYuan TaiChi. To me, his form tells a personality of someone who practiced the same thing over and over but also has experimented a lot for different cases and scenarios.
Then we have ChenZhongHua’s practical method. His form has most resemblance to Hong’s form. Most of the resemblance is in the small simplified hand movements and the solid stance including generic stepping and weight shifting. But his form does have FengZhiqiang’s HunYuan stepping and hand circle movements integrated; which cannot be seen in Hong’s form. Especially a part where ChenZhongHua does a hand circles with back and forth stepping is the same as HunYuan TaiChi. However, I still think his form resemble Hong’s most as if it were his foundation and base. His form tells me a personality of a person who is open minded yet very strict with traditions.
When comparing XingJia and LaoJia, one notable difference is that I see LaoJia postures look rather more curved compared to XinJia. Also, the upper body of LaoJia practitioners tends to lean and bend forward more than XinJia practitioners. But if you look at ChenFaKe’s postures, his lines are so damn straight. The same goes for Hong’s postures, his postures are very straight. One interesting thing is that LaoJia practitioners have also started to become more external; to the point where I agree with FengZhiqiang’s comment that the newer generation is doing too much FaJin (both XinJia and LaoJia). But I also seen the opposite to happen, I have seen more XinJia practitioners using more curved postures and flowery movements.
Among the Yang styles, I am more familiar with ChenManChing’s form. ChenManChing is also the creator of the Yang simplified form. Which similar to ChenFaKe having criticism from LaoJia styles, ChenManChing had criticism among more traditional Yang styles. Most of the Yang postures I have seen nowadays have a higher and natural standing posture. But interestingly, if you look at older and more traditional Yang forms, their stance is just as low as Chen forms. Also, the newer Yang style generation seems to have less leaning of the upper body. However, more traditional styles seem to have more leaning of their upper body.
When comparing Yang and Chen styles, the first striking difference that Yang styles have less flowering hand movements. And when they turn the bodies, they don’t move their hands as much as Chen forms. But because their hand flipping positions are different from Chen styles, it has its own way of masking ShenFa to the untrained eye. And because Yang postures have a slight difference in positions, their movements look rather more relaxing and soft in nature. Just like a needle would look differently stand horizontally or vertically to someone who is observing from above or from the sides.
Then we have Wu stylists who have adopted the higher natural stance of new generation of Yang forms. But they have preserved leaning forward in their upper bodies from the traditional Yang forms. One of the striking differences is how they allow you to lean your upper body all the way down and forward. Wu forms do such postures without widening and lowering the stance. Another difference is that they move their hands even less than Yang forms when turning sideways. Some Wu forms go to the extent of moving not their hands at all when their body is moving. This is how much emphasis they put into ShenFa.
And the next lineage is the Sun style; which has all the components of a Wu styles. But interestingly, they have adopted wider stance and more flowery hand movements. Although their hand movements are not as flowery as Chen style, they are somewhat more flowery than Yang styles. And although their postures are not as low as Chen styles, it is certainly lower and wider than Wu styles. However, they do have the perseverance of not moving the hands when they turn sideways with their bodies.
There is also ZhaoBao TaiChi which has a resemblance to Chen Style TaiChi in general. However, it doesn’t have any punches on the form. They don’t even stomp when doing Buddha’s Warrior Pounds Mortar. The FaJin inside their form doesn’t have any striking resemblance. Their FaJin movements have a resemblance of Hunyuan TaiChi circle combined with XingYi’s pi. In addition, their movements look extremely smooth and ancient.

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Xavier Santiago November 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

As a Practical Method practitioner, I will make the following correction to one of your statements:

You said, “Among XinJia practitioners we have Hong Junsheng and Feng Zhiqiang.”

Our Shigong, Hong Junsheng, studied from Chen Fake in the 1930s. We usually don’t like the labels “old frame” or “new frame”, as we usually refer to Hong’s style as what Chen Fake taught in the 1930s. New Frame is recorded to first have appeared in the late 1950s. Hong was not part of that generation of students and disciples. We can safely say that Hong was a practitioner of “old frame” to distinguish his style from what later generations of Chen Fake students taught. The only change Hong made in his Practical Method is a change in the teaching method, as Chen Fake’s teachings were left completely intact. Hong noticed a difference between the martial application and the actual movement in the forms. Hong asked Chen Fake in their final 4 months together in the late 1950s if he could practice his forms in the exact same way that the martial applications are physically performed. Chen Fake answered that he saw no reason why not. Chen Fake even offered Hong to continue to help him with the development of this way of teaching his family’s boxing art, but Chen Fake passed away shortly after Hong went back to Jinan.

In terms of our Shigong, Feng Zhiqiang, though he belonged to the later generation of Chen Fake disciples; when I experienced his martial applications they are exactly the same as those taught in the Practical Method. They are Chen style Taijiquan martial applications even if the external appearance of the forms seems different (With Taijiquan, what you see is never what you get). When I had the privilege of Pushing Hands with Shigong Feng in Beijing in 2007, I can bear witness to the fact that the martial applications are the same as those we practice in the Practical Method (it is Chen style Taijiquan after all).

Our style is about continuous physical practice following a set of physical rules for movements based on Yin/Yang. Nothing else. This is understood physically after years of physical practice in order to be understood intellectually, never the other way around.

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cshum00 November 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thanks for the correction and I apologize for the mistake. So, pretty much from ChenFaKe lineage but not XinJia. It does explain why some moves in HongJunsheng and FengZhiqiang’s form are different from XinJia. But if you actually look at the form XinJia and LaoJia forms, i still say that their forms are closer to XinJia than LaoJia.

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Xavier Santiago November 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

Interesting conversation. In my case, before meeting Shifu (Master Chen), I would actually study my Taiji side by side with reading the classics and trying to interpret them as I practiced. When I met Shifu and began training with him, at first I tried to do the same with Shigong Hong Junsheng’s Practical Method book and Shifu’s lectures. I remember in one of the full time trainings I went to in Edmonton back in 2008, Shifu told us that the concepts he explains in workshops are advanced concepts which your body can’t physically replicate without years of physical training of Yi Lu and foundations in order to physically change the body. He told us to take them as entertainment for now. Once the body has gone through a physical transformation from training and following the rules, then you will be able to work on replicating these principles which need to be physically taught and applied on you first. It was only recently when that lesson really sunk in me and now it has been a long time since I have read anything related to Taiji (still do once in a while and see it for now as entertainment) and concentrate more on physically practicing. Just following the rules and looking for physical methods taught by Shifu to avoid mistakes (ex: yoga blocks on the wall to avoid moving the knee sideways, rubber cords to keep the in with the elbow and out with the hand rules, etc.). One of the best things I love about the practical method is that a physical map to get to Taiji Gong Fu is clearly laid out in front of you and it depends on both your continuous practice and not deviating from it (no adding and no subtracting anything). That is how I am practicing my Taiji now. I can only say that small steps of progress are able to be seen when following the method, but I am still very far from even coming close to Gong Fu. However, I am enjoying every step of the journey.
Keep practicing and enjoy the journey 

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Chen Zhonghua November 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Thanks very much for the discussions and information provided.

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